NEW PITTSBURGH COURIER EXCLUSIVE REPORT: UPDATED JAN. 14, 8:45 P.M.
Freezing cold outside, boiling hot inside.
Hundreds of African Americans in Pittsburgh braved the 15-degree temperatures to voice their outrage at Pizza Milano, a longtime pizza restaurant on Fifth Ave. in Uptown, Saturday, Jan. 13. A day after a video surfaced on social media that reportedly showed 41-year-old Pizza Milano employee Mahmut Yilmaz wrestling a Black female customer, Jade Martin, to the ground during an altercation, then banging her head repeatedly against the ground yelling, “I said Please,” Blacks in Pittsburgh staged a daylong protest outside the restaurant.
Many protesters, including Pittsburgh resident Bomani Howze, urged the crowd to “Shut (Pizza Milano) down.” Other protesters spent the afternoon informing those who just attended the Pittsburgh Penguins game at PPG Arena across the street about the incident, and convinced some not to enter Pizza Milano.
Nicky Jo Dawson, the lead organizer of the protest, said she felt obligated to make her voice heard, calling the video of Martin being assaulted by Yilmaz completely out of line. “I did this because we as Black women are tired of being subjected to brutality by these White men in these neighborhoods that we built up,” she told the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Rob Taylor Jr. in an exclusive interview, Jan. 13. “You’re taking our Black dollars to build your businesses and then turn around and brutalize us and nobody’s holding you accountable for it. We’re sick of this. This is our neighborhood, you’ve built up an establishment in a Black neighborhood and you expect to get our money, and in return you’re going to brutalize us, and arrest us, and hospitalize us, and then expect for us to patronize you.
“The message is simple, it’s really clear,” Jo Dawson continued. “If you cannot respect our Black lives in your business then you can’t have one, in our neighborhood. Period.”
Martin went to the hospital on her own accord after the Jan. 12 incident, which was the first time Pittsburgh police had learned about the incident. The next morning, Pittsburgh police announced they were officially investigating the matter.
Pittsburgh police announced late Saturday night, Jan. 13, that Yilmaz had turned himself into police and was officially arrested. Pittsburgh police say he faces one count of simple assault and one count of aggravated assault. A public records criminal docket reads that Yilmaz will have a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25 at 12:30 p.m.
Pittsburgh’s mayor, Bill Peduto, released a statement after learning about the incident. “This morning I was made aware of the deeply disturbing video from Milano’s Pizza. I have worked through the day with Pittsburgh Police leadership and charges have now been quickly brought. I want to thank the community for their assistance in the investigation, and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for their hard work throughout the day. It is my sincere hope that these charges are another step in sending a very clear signal that Pittsburgh will not tolerate violence against women and that we will work as a community to protect all women, and notably African American women, from physical and emotional violence.”
The New Pittsburgh Courier was provided a photo of the alleged suspect, Mahmut Yilmaz, by Allegheny County Communications Director Amie Downs.
New Pittsburgh Courier exclusive video of the protest that occurred Saturday, Jan. 13, is below.